It’s an act for all ears: singer-songwriter Barbara Martin’s sorta jazzy, sorta bluesy, all-acoustic work tinged with folk and country has won hearts and high acclaim from the Kennedy Center to Los Angeles. Her September 2013 release, “Every Little Thing,” is a stripped-down venture that makes for a more relaxed, cozy musical tour. She’ll bring her Shenandoah Valley vibe to New Market tonight for a solo performance, just like the ones that launched her career more than two decades ago.
What can concertgoers expect from you at your New Market show, and what’s new about this set?
I’ll be doing songs from (“Every Little Thing”) which are songs that I’ve written … a medley of spirituals, and I’ll be mixing up blues and jazz and contemporary folk originals with jazz standards.
This is the ninth CD that I’ve put out and it’s the first CD … with several selections (of) just me and guitar and vocals. I’m really happy with it. I always thought I needed to have someone backing me up.
I started out 20 years ago as a solo performer. (Playing alone is) kind of a return.
What are some of the pros and cons of solo shows versus playing with others?
You can do whatever you want and you don’t have to worry about anyone else. You can make a last-minute decision or slow down a tempo. … It means practicing a lot more because it’s just me. I consider that to be a pro, that it’s challenging.
You’ve played at so many venues — what stands out to you about smaller shows?
I actually really like smaller shows because of the intimacy. I like being able to look out and see everyone in the audience and feel the connection between me and the audience. One of the great things about performing is feeling the energy flow back and forth.
Where did your inspiration for the new work come from? Is there a theme?
It started out New Year’s Day of 2013 … and I started going through my catalog of recorded songs and realized I had about six songs I had recorded that I wasn’t really doing anything with. I just thought, “Oh, I’ve got the beginnings of a CD here,” so I went to Nashville and wrote a few new songs.
I think if there was a theme there, it’d probably be learning from experiences. Experiencing loss, experiencing joy and learning from that. … Thinking about the songs on the CD, “Every Little Thing” is a very joyful song about enjoying the little things in life. There’s a song called “I’m an Old Woman” — hey, I don’t want to go back and be younger … loss of divorce and having some detachment … there’s a few really happy love songs, “we just met and everything’s great” type of songs.
You’ve been at this for a while now — what are you most proud of, and what do you think could have gone a little differently?
I’m proud of the musical progress I’ve made. I’ve learned a lot of things musically from the time I started. I never went to music school so … I’ve mastered some things and I’m proud of that. I’m proud of where I’m at with my songwriting and that was just a lot of work and taking workshops and going back to songs and accepting people’s critiques.
From the career standpoint, (changing genres often) might not have been the smartest thing to do … you have to start all over again. But from a personal standpoint, it’s been really rewarding.
This story was written by Rachel S. Karas. Follow her on Twitter @rachelkaras.